Re: Re[6]: Re-examining our practice

Greg Ritter (gritter@FELIX.VCU.EDU)
Sun, 11 Feb 1996 15:04:26 EST

Beth said:

> > Sometimes students are wrong. There are times when authority
> > to be exercised to correct students. When we exercise that
> > authority through rhetorical competition (argumentation,
> > I think we are potentially abusing our position since we are
> > "using against them" the very thing that we are supposed to
> > teaching them. That's the dilemma I am pathetically
continuing to
> > try to express.
> Exactly. That's why we have to be clear on our area of
> We can use our authority to correct students on issues of
> only. We cannot use our authority to correct their ideology,
> or belief. We must insist that they promote their position in
> logically sound ways, but we cannot attack the position itself.

Yet this makes is sound as if rhetoric is something outside and
unaffected by ideology. Rhetoric is not natural law; it's a
socially constructed (and therefore, *ideological*) set of rules
and standards for communication. And I think there is much less
of a separation between criticizing the ways in which the
position is presented and the position itself.

The classic example is, of course, a student arguing from a
religious perspective, perhaps using the Bible or another
religious texts as a basis for their academic argument. It is
necessary to explain to them that in the standards of academic
rhetoric using the Bible as "proof" is not generally accepted.
This standard is an ideological position that values logical,
rational thought over religious conviction (and an ideological
position that is relatively new to the several thousand year old
tradition of rhetoric). In this instance, correcting the rhetoric
is tantamount to saying your position is not valuable in this

Obviously that's an extreme example, but I think it serves to
show that the line separating rhetorical standards from
ideological positions is not at all as well-defined as we would
often like to think it is.

Greg Ritter